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Christine's Corner

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

May 30, 2023

The voice of the community must be heard to achieve an equitable region, our beloved community. And there must be many conduits for this voice.

At Philanthropy Network, we are committed to serve as such a conduit for multiple voices representing diverse communities and divergent perspectives so that more can be heard by business leaders and policymakers as we seek to maximize the capability and impact of Philadelphia’s philanthropy engine.

So, we’ve been listening hard over the last few weeks. Very hard.

Following the annual members’ meeting on March 30, we hosted a retreat for Philanthropy Network’s Board of Directors in April. Much of what we heard there amplified what we’ve been hearing during our restructuring—alignment of philanthropic efforts to achieve one shared vision, network growth and strategic partnerships, clarity in each of our roles and the community engagement imperative.

Consistent with all this messaging we are receiving, I urged the business community to recognize its central role in advancing a more equitable region as the keynote speaker at the Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2023 Faces of Philanthropy event on April 13. Afterwards, I spoke with leading for-profit and nonprofit organizations to share the Network’s vision to cultivate genuine partnerships with the business community. 

I have also had the pleasure of meeting with many public sector officials and was thrilled to attend meetings hosted by the Pennsylvania Health Funders Collaborative and to listen to state policy leaders. I firmly believe these kinds of partnerships hold the keys to untapped opportunities for realizing a community that is equitable for everyone.

Pictured: (Image left) Christine Robinson delivering the keynote address at the Philadelphia Business Journal's 2023 Faces of Philanthropy event; (Image right) Left to right: Emma Hertz, HealthSpark Foundation; Diana Doherty, VNA Foundation of Greater North Penn; Nicole Tell, BLBB Charitable; Christine Robinson, Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia

On April 27th, I was delighted to attend the first of my regional listening tour sessions with members in Montgomery County. I want to thank everyone who came out for their warm welcome, and for sharing their feedback and thoughts about the Network’s future. My special thanks to BLBB Charitable, HealthSpark Foundation an VNA Foundation of Greater North Penn for hosting.

Our members should feel confident that their feedback is being heard, and as we move forward the Network will implement new strategies to further achieve intersectional equity.

When I stepped into this role, I said listening would be foundational to our re-engagement with the community, and I think these recent events are symbolic of this effort.

Board members, the community, business leaders and policymakers all have a role in building this equitable region, and I plan to continue listening to everyone and integrating new ideas and strategies into one aligned philanthropic mission.

May 5, 2023

I'm constantly thinking about our culture of philanthropy and what it means to our network. The more I think about it, the more I believe our culture requires a community committed to telling and supporting relevant stories and enhancing each other's well-being.

I focus on "community" because I believe a beloved community and an equitable region go hand in hand. An equitable region is the very essence of a beloved community. Part of having a beloved community is the idea that we can all extend grace to one another by being open and accepting. In philanthropy, this is the heart of equity, where we respect the inherent dignity of all people and perspectives.

Building a beloved community also requires building connections. We can only do this by shifting how we've been socialized to think of others. As a network hoping to achieve this paradigm shift, we want to start planning carefully crafted focus groups for our members to understand better who they are and what they need.

As we work together as a network to reimagine philanthropy and build a gracious community, I encourage all to prioritize listening to the voices of those directly affected and then begin to figure out how we can construct narratives, systems, and policies to help them prosper. I am looking forward to the listening sessions and getting to know the perspectives and realities of members, communities, and the nuances of this region.

The work is not about me. Rather, it's about skillfully working together to listen and translate, bringing theory to practice, and stepping into rooms not accessible to everybody. By doing this, we acknowledge our privilege and put it to good use to better our community and let people know we hear and value their perspective.

March 22, 2023

"Sticking to my knitting." It's a phrase from my childhood that best describes my early months as the new president of Philanthropy Network: focusing on what works to re-energize and grow our 125-member association so that we can be stronger together.

The role of the Philanthropy Network in furthering the impact of regional giving has never been more critical.

As we emerge from the pandemic, signs of more significant and complex needs are everywhere, especially in historically underserved communities. Whether you look at precipitous drops in academic markers, the surge in housing instability, rising community violence or widespread calls for help in supporting mental health, there’s never been a more important time for us in the philanthropy world to be great and effective in our jobs.

With an annual investment of more than $500 million, our diverse membership is a powerful force for good and a catalyst for a more vibrant, resilient and equitable region. We are a generative network that can spur on our transition into what I call a beloved community, where well-being is cherished and nurtured at all levels.

But to accomplish this, we have our work cut out for us. We must convene those who have proven their mettle in advancing gun-violence prevention. We must form more intentional partnerships to co-create public dialogues, inviting fellow residents representing high-priority populations. Only by demonstrating our commitment to those directly affected can we strengthen the philanthropic field through greater inclusivity—dare I say, intersectionality.

I believe there is much to gain in leveraging today's multiple social forces, personal and cultural identities, and ideological instruments to reimagine what's possible. This all starts with ensuring our foundation is durable, and that's why I am sticking to my knitting by focusing on:

  • Governance, with the presentation of a new slate of prospective directors up for a vote at next week’s Annual Members Meeting;
  • Staffing, with the addition of several new positions to ensure our capacity to design and implement a robust learning and action agenda; 
  • A regional listening tour beginning in April to expound on the invaluable insights already shared by many members; and
  • New programming, including sessions on educational equity, modes and models of grantmaking, equity in philanthropy, alignment with public policy and violence-prevention solutions. 

I look forward to greeting you in person at our upcoming Annual Members’ Meeting on March 28th at the gorgeous Center for Architecture and Design (1218 Arch Street, Philadelphia).

December 2022

I hope that all of you are enjoying early winter and the wonders of the Greater Philadelphia region. I am looking back with joy on a restful, engaging, bountiful, and inspiring time with family and friends in Philly over the Thanksgiving weekend. We had a wonderful time together! This was our first Philly Thanksgiving in many years; we have much to be grateful for.

I have been reflecting on my journey and the present. Firstly, as the incoming President of Philanthropy Network, I am thankful for the opportunity to return to this beautiful region, full of vibrancy, life, culture, art, and hope. I am also grateful for numerous new relationships and the prospect of meeting with and thinking alongside many new colleagues. Over the past three months, I have worked to meet with most board members and spent a great deal of time with the current staff. So many of you have welcomed me to your home communities, and I plan to visit as many of you as possible over the coming year. I appreciate the warmth and hospitality shown to me. Every county has numerous communities: metro, suburban, and rural corners burgeoning with promise, and I look forward to continuing to explore the countless gems and neighborhoods throughout the region.

I also look forward to building Philanthropy Network’s capacity through numerous learning opportunities, networking opportunities, and partnerships. An area of initial emphasis has been to explore the viability of policy and advocacy work to leverage the collective power of our members and think alongside our public sector partners, thereby amplifying philanthropic investments across all areas of the region. I plan to fine-tune partnerships and align efforts strategically with the public sector. This builds the strength of philanthropic endeavors and benefits communities throughout the area. 

In alignment with our collective goal of strengthening the philanthropic field, Philanthropy Network is developing two cohorts for a deep dive into vital policy and partnership roles to augment the work of philanthropy and be more intentional about implications for traditionally marginalized populations directly affected. One is a group of philanthropic leaders interested in policy implications, public sector partners, the ramifications of municipal priorities and budgets and ways that we may partner more purposefully as a region. I am interested in beginning a series of listening sessions to learn more about ways this work can be grounded in the Network and built out over time.

The second priority is intentional work in the area of gun violence and violence prevention. Network members, the William Penn Foundation and the Philadelphia Foundation have taken extraordinary leadership in this area, recently spearheading the launch of the Civic Coalition to Save Lives. Philanthropy Network plans to serve as a convener, to share information, host film screenings and dialogues with public officials, and present other opportunities that might deepen knowledge, practice, implementation and, in the long-term, save lives. We all want to live in a safe community where everyone is valued and feels safe as they work, worship, play, and enjoy the wealth of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. The groups are being formed to share philanthropy’s commitment to community well-being on critical issues and explore partnership opportunities that are foundational in the development of an equitable region.

As we embark on the New Year and continue this journey together, I would love to learn more about your work, aspirations, and perspectives. As a generative network, please take time to consider how we want to be with each other. How do we want to live in this region? How might we all link aims and arms to build an equitable region? Creating a beloved community of grace is within our reach if we all have the same dream, the will, the passion, and we all work with intention.